Scores more Palestinians wounded as Israeli police attack Jerusalem protesters

Scores more Palestinians wounded as Israeli police attack Jerusalem protesters
Scores of Palestinians were injured on Saturday as Israeli security forces used rubber bullets against Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah district of east Jerusalem.
5 min read
09 May, 2021
Israeli forces have injured Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque [Getty]
Scores of Palestinians were injured on Saturday as Israeli police fired water cannon and rubber bullets against Palestinian protesters in the Sheikh Jarrah district of occupied east Jerusalem.

Israeli security forces also attacked Palestinian protesters holding a sit-in at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the early hours of Sunday morning, wounding a further 10 people. 

One of the protesters was shot in the mouth by a rubber bullet according to the Arabic news website Arabi 21.

The continued violence by Israeli security forces has drawn anger from across the world with US lawmakers and international human rights groups criticizing the repression of Palestinian protesters.

The Arab League has scheduled an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the situation, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned "Israel's abominable attacks" on Palestinians on Saturday.

Over the past week, Palestinians have been protesting the forced eviction of families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah district of Jerusalem.

Around 500 Palestinians face expulsion from their homes to make way for Israeli settlers who claim to own the properties they live on.

The upcoming evictions have triggered a wave of sympathy with Palestinians  across the world, with an online campaign using the hashtags #SaveAlAqsa and #SaveSheikhJarrah gaining traction on social media.

Israeli police said that they dispersed Saturday night's rally in Sheikh Jarrah when protesters threw stones. 

Israeli officials also said on Sunday that a rocket had been fired towards Israel from the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army struck a "military target" in the south of the strip in response, they said. The army had earlier fired tear gas at protesters on the border between Gaza and Israel.

In Jerusalem, Israeli police said they had arrested three Palestinian protesters, while Palestinians reported 13 other arrests earlier in the day.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 90 people were wounded in Saturday's clashes in Jerusalem, revising up their earlier estimate of 53.

AFP journalists in Jerusalem said Israeli riot police had fired rubber bullets, sound grenades and water cannon on Palestinians on Saturday, some of whom threw projectiles at the police. One officer received a head injury, said police.

On Friday, Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound while prayers were taking place, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades and injuring more than 200 Palestinians.

Israeli police claimed that their actions were in response to fireworks and stones being thrown at them.

However, Israel has been carrying out a systematic campaign of harrassment and intimidation of Palestinians around the Al-Aqsa Mosque since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, preventing calls to prayer being issued and people from breaking their fast around the mosque.

Friday's violence was the worst in years at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina.

Sheikh Jarrah becomes a focal point

Palestinians have held nightly protests against the attempt by Israeli settlers to forcefully take over the homes of families in Sheikh Jarrah.

Dozens of Palestinian-Israeli protesters also gathered across Israel in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents, holding up signs that read "the occupation is terrorism".

Police blocked buses filled with Palestinian-Israelis headed for Jerusalem from northern Israel, saying they would not be allowed "to participate in violent riots".

Instead, hundreds marched on highways leading to the city.

Thousands of worshippers stayed on at Al-Aqsa on Saturday for Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny), a peak of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas urged Palestinians to remain at Al-Aqsa until Ramadan ends, warning that "the resistance is ready to defend Al-Aqsa at any cost".

Outside the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, Palestinians set fire to a barricade before police on horseback dispersed the protesters.

'Extreme concern'

The Quartet of envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations expressed "deep concern" over Israeli violence.

"We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint," they wrote.

The United States - an Israeli ally whose tone has toughened under US President Joe Biden - said it was "extremely concerned" and urged both sides to "avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace".

"This includes evictions in east Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions and acts of terrorism," the State Department said.

The European Union called on the authorities "to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions," saying "violence and incitement are unacceptable and the perpetrators on all sides must be held accountable".

Russia voiced "deep concern", calling the expropriation of land and property in the occupied Palestinian territories including east Jerusalem "a violation of international law".

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he held the Israeli government responsible for the unrest and voiced "full support for our heroes in Al-Aqsa".

Yair Lapid, an Israeli politician attempting to form a coalition government to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, backed the police.

"The state of Israel will not let violence run loose and definitely will not allow terror groups to threaten it," he tweeted.

'Barbaric attack'

The Al-Aqsa clashes drew sharp rebukes across the Arab and Muslim world.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel as a "cruel terrorist state" in a speech in Ankara Saturday, calling on the United Nations to intervene to "stop the persecution".

Jordan condemned Israel's "barbaric attack" and Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Pakistan and Qatar were among Muslim countries that blasted Israeli forces for the confrontation.

Israel also drew criticism from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, two countries that signed normalisation accords with the Jewish state last year.

Iran called on the United Nations to condemn the Israeli police actions, arguing that "this war crime once again proved to the world the criminal nature of the illegitimate Zionist regime".

Tensions are expected to remain high in Jerusalem.

Israel's supreme court is to hold a new hearing in the Sheikh Jarrah case on Monday, when Israelis mark Jerusalem Day to celebrate the "liberation" of the city.

Agencies contributed to this report

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